Regardless of how quickly we judge someone, we should be ready to revise our opinionby AC Grayling / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
There is a distinction between a snap judgement about a person, and a prejudice held against that person. The former is made in the first moments of meeting; the latter needs to be formed before meeting to be a genuine prejudice. This distinction matters because whereas prejudice is unacceptable, snap judgements seem to be the psychological norm.
Empirical work by a pair of psychologists, Alexander Todorov and Janine Willis, ten years ago at Princeton University established two things: that “first impressions” take about a tenth of a second to form, and that they are hard to efface thereafter. For the person about to have a job interview, this is rather daunting news. But is not just employment prospects that turn on first impressions: social and romantic prospects hinge on them too.
It is well known that people communicate by a variety of non-verbal means, and indeed might give information about themselves which is more accurate than, or at odds with, the information they verbally offer. Subliminal cues are transmitted by body posture, hand gestures, direction of gaze, blinking, size of the pupils, and more; and of course how people dress, and whether they have detectable breath or body odour, also influence reactions.